Probe urged into killing of archbishop's brother

Romeo Capalla.

MANILA, Philippines - With signs supposedly showing that state agents were involved in the killing of Romeo Capalla, Bayan Muna lawmakers have initiated a move to look into the recent incident as well as the growing number of extrajudicial killings under the Aquino administration.

Bayan Muna Representatives Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate have filed a resolution asking the House committee on human rights to look deeper into the killing of Capalla, chair of the Panay Fair Trade Center and a member of the Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainee Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (Selda).

The lawmakers pointed out that prior to being shot at close range by his assailants, the 65-year-old Capalla, a brother of Davao Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla, "followed the pattern of similar other victims of extrajudicial killings in the past: Vilified in public, placed under surveillance or named in the military's order of battle."

'Preposterous' allegations

An Army officer has denied any military involvement in Capalla's killing and called the allegations "preposterous," adding that the military will help the police investigate the killing.

Capalla was first arrested during martial law on suspicion of being a member of the New People's Army, the communist party's armed wing. After his release, he pursued his fair trade advocacy and the production of organic food, according to the lawmakers.

On Aug. 3, 2005, Capalla was arrested anew on suspicion that he was involved in an arson incident in Guimbal, Iloilo, which was blamed on the NPA. The charges against him were dismissed, and he was subsequently released.

Capalla was shot dead at the Oton public market in Iloilo on March 15.

Capalla's coaccused in the case, Aklan Councilor Fernando Baldomero, was killed in July 2010 and was the first case of extrajudicial killing under the Aquino administration, the lawmakers noted.

They said the attack on Capalla once again illustrated that "impunity continues to reign in the country," and is a problem that has continued from the Arroyo to the Aquino administration.

"Murderers and human rights violators continue to operate without fear of being arrested or punished," they added.

"The continued vilification of progressive and militant organisations as communist front organisations and enemies of the state under the government's Oplan Bayanihan counterinsurgency programme even give legitimacy to the killings, abduction and illegal arrests of human rights defenders and members of legitimate people's organisations," they said.

They further cited figures from the rights group Karapatan showing that 169 cases of extrajudicial killings had taken place since President Aquino was sworn into office.

"One after another, new killings happen while the previous cases remain unsolved," they said.